Our SXSW 2019 Wrap-Up: ASCAP Members Turn It Up Across Austin and Beyond

By Erik Philbrook, ASCAP Editor in Chief  •  March 20, 2019

Before the clean-up crews began sweeping the streets of Austin on Sunday, March 17th, the music intelligentsia tried once again to summarize and encapsulate the meaning and impact of the SXSW Music Festival, the music industry’s annual confab deep in the heart of Texas. However, the festival and conference, now in its umpteenth year, defies easy description. Initially an event that showcased independent artists, today’s SXSW draws legends and emerging stars alike – and every level of success in between, and means something different to everyone who experiences it.

For ASCAP, SXSW has long meant showcasing deserving members so the world can discover gifted writers. This year was no different. ASCAP’s Rhythm and Soul Music team presented a powerful showcase at The Belmont on March 14th entitled On the Come Up: High Priestess, which brought together some of the most exciting women artists in hip-hop, rap and urban music. Presented with support from My Executive Room and hosted by C. Devone, the show featured knockout performances by Tierra Whack, Dreezy, Rico Nasty, Amara La Negra, Maliibu Miitch, Azia, AdELA, Hunni, Destiny Rogers and more. DJ Osh Kosh and DJ Miss Milan kept the packed crowd moving all night between sets.

For the third year running, SXSW and ASCAP also teamed up to present a unique songwriting camp, SXSW Songs (see video below), with a curated lineup of established songwriters, artists and producers from around the world. This year's SXSW Songs Camp included ASCAP members Sam DeRosa (co-writer of lovelytheband's "Broken"), fiction. and Ceci G, plus SIBA, Phil Cook, Amanda Cy, Steven Bashir, Steve Manovski, Minna Koivisto, Liza Owen, Foolish Ways, Robinson, Livvi Franc, Calle Lehmann, James Droll, James "YAMI" Bell, Linying and Sidney Swift. The camp culminated at The Townsend with an evening of networking and listening to their creations. Complimentary bar was provided by ASCAP & Symphonic.

At the Austin Convention Center, ASCAP members gave some of the most engaging keynote addresses of the week. The legendary Beastie Boys’ Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz delved deep into their group’s history and discussed the newly published Beastie Boys Book, released six years after the death of Adam “MCA” Yauch. In addition, Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson aand Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches took part in a joint conversation about how women are treated in the music industry. Other panels with an ASCAP focus featured ASCAP’s Brian Reyes speaking on the “Cue the Music” panel and award-winning ASCAP songwriter and music creator advocate Priscilla Renea, who spoke on the panel called “Country Music’s Struggle to Define Women” panel.

On Wednesday, March 13, at Willie Nelson’s Luck Ranch, ASCAP was a sponsor of the Luck Reunion Festival’s Potluck Dinner benefiting Farm Aid. The benefit featured music by ASCAP songwriter Ben Dickey, who just released his new album and who made waves last year by starring in the Ethan Hawke-directed film Blaze.

The next day at the ranch, numerous ASCAP members from across the musical spectrum performed at the Luck Reunion music festival, including Steve Earle and the Dukes, Matthew Logan Vaquez, Nathaniel Rateliff, Cedric Burnside, J.S. Ondara, Dylan Leblanc, Jade Jackson, E.B. the Younger, Lola Kirke, The Cactus Blossoms, Nicole Atkins, Strand of Oaks, Madison Cunningham, among others.

On the heels of the festival, Luck Productions and ASCAP also announced the launch of Luck Embassy, a unique artist-facing portal for the #luckfamily of music creators in partnership with Southwest, Gibson, The Line Hotel and Modern Electric Sound.

“ASCAP has always celebrated music's history while lifting up the next generation of songwriters, so partnering with Luck Reunion to support the Luck Embassy program made perfect sense, said ASCAP's Beth Brinker, Nashville-based Membership Director. ASCAP shares Luck’s spirit of support for artists and their creative families, and together we hope to be a friendly place for them to turn, no matter where they are in their careers or what kind of music they create. That we get to call Texas homebase for this partnership feels like a special nod to some of our most celebrated members, like Townes Van Zandt, Guy and Susanna Clark, Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle, legends who have forged a path for today's storytellers.”

All across Austin, ASCAP members from across the musical spectrum performed on stages large and small. Among the highlights were Dylan Leblanc, Ben Kweller and Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians at South by San Jose, Cautious Clay, Shaed and Donna Missal at the Vevo showcase, Sam Fender at the British Embassy showcase, Texas-raised guitar god Ian Moore at Lucy’s Fried Chicken Revival, Sarah Shook and the Disarmers at Yard Dog as part of the Bloodshot Records day party, and so many more.

As is tradition, SXSW announced the winners of its Grulke Prize, named after the longtime Creative Director of the SXSW Music Festival, who passed away a few years ago. The winner of the Grulke Prize for Developing Non-US Act is Angie McMahon.  Hailing from Australia, McMahon, who licenses her music through ASCAP in the US, is set to release her debut album in 2019. She writes and performs across the full dynamic spectrum, from visceral rock to hushed tones. The Grulke Prize for Career Act went to The Chills, from New Zealand. Fronted by the gifted Martin Phillipps, the band originally formed in 1980 and has been a cult fave worldwide ever since. The are currently touring and are the subject of the SXSW World Premiere Doc The Chills: The Triumph and Tragedy of Martin Phillips.